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A positive decade for Nordic life science

Over the past ten years, the life science industry across the Nordics has shown tremendous growth. Despite some hiccups along the way caused by global upheavals, the region’s industry continues to trend upwards.

Today, the five Nordic countries together boast around 700-800 life science companies, with biotech and then medtech being the most prominent areas, a decent margin ahead of pharma companies. According to data from Citeline – a company providing pharmaceutical business intelligence – the Nordic biopharma segment contributes approximately EUR 30 billion in exports and EUR 14 billion in trade surplus. Sweden and Denmark lead the league, both in terms of number of companies and in trade.

 

Data from Citeline. Illustratio: SwedenBIO

 

With the end of 2023 in sight, Nordic Life Science Days (NLSDays) is set to celebrate its tenth anniversary in Copenhagen on November 29-30. As this is the largest partnering conference for Nordic life science, the occasion gives us reason to pause and consider the trends that have dominated the industry over the last ten years.

This 50% increase over the past decade stands in stark contrast to the 3% that the total European pipeline has grown over the same timespan.”

Nordic life science companies have done well in the past decade, Citeline’s data shows. The biopharma pipeline, for example, has grown from less than 600 active assets in 2013 to around 900 assets today. This 50% increase over the past decade stands in stark contrast to the 3% that the total European pipeline has grown over the same timespan.

Citeline’s data also shows that values, as well as the number of deals, have increased since 2013, with a peak during the pandemic years – more than USD 2.5 billion was raised in the Nordics in 2021. The curve dipped to less than a billion in 2022. However, while the books haven’t yet been closed for 2023, the current figures look promising and Citeline’s forecast indicates that the region is on track to raise ~USD 2 billion in 2023.

 

Data from Citeline. Illustration: SwedenBIO

 

Dr Karin Meyer is the CEO of CTR – Centre for Translational Research, the holding company for a growing group Swedish CROs currently consisting of seven companies.

“We currently feel that the financial climate is sluggish, but a lot has happened in this regard if we look at it from a ten-year perspective. The fundraising opportunities have really increased over the last decade,” she says.

The fundraising opportunities have really increased over the last decade.”

Dr Meyer attributes the success of domestic companies in part to their ability to use available funding in a smart way. “In Sweden, companies really put in great efforts to focus on the right things, since we generally raise less funds in the Nordics compared to some other countries. We tend to roll up our sleeves, accept that the conditions are what they are, and really make the most out of what we have,” she states.

A change that Dr Meyer has seen in the past decade is that actors across the entire life science value chain have matured and found their respective niches, and have also become much more collaborative.

“There are fewer silos today compared to 10 years ago. We also have many platforms for collaboration, some of which are government run, which helps to push the industry forward,” she says. “The ecosystem has matured and in the process we’ve torn down a lot of barriers that used to be in the way of collaboration.”

“Those of us who are service providers can see a huge difference in how we work with our customers. Only 10-15 years ago, it was a stricter relationship where the customer placed an order, we did it, and they paid for it. Today, we’re invited to collaborate with our customers and get a closer look at their projects, which benefits everyone involved. We see greater results when we can collaborate through successes and setbacks,” she says.

Dr Jeanet Løgsted is the CEO of Denmark-based Scantox Group – a company with a strong presence in Sweden after the acquisition of three Swedish CROs in the past couple of years. She notices a positive trend also in terms of how business-ready Nordic life science companies are today.

The companies have become much more business oriented – of course the science is driving everything, but they have a plan.”

“Biotech companies have become more focused on their development efforts. Previously it was more a case of that they raised a lot of money but they didn’t actually upfront have a plan for how get to first-in-human. Now you can see that they really do have a plan, already when they raise money, for how to get to first-in-human,” she says.

“The companies have become much more business oriented – of course the science is driving everything, but they have a plan. So they’ve become much more structured, and thereby more successful,” Dr Løgsted says. “Now we see more that they approach us and say what their end goal is and ask how they can get there with the best scientific quality and best spent time and money?”

For more insights into the past decade of Nordic life science and a discussion on what’s next for the industry, join the Opening Session at NLSDays on November 29 (nlsdays.com).

This column was originally written by Alexandra Hoegberg, Director of Communications and International Marketing, SwedenBIO, for NLS magazine No 04 2023, out November 2023

Featured photo of Alexandra Hoegberg: Eva Garmendia

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